On Parade with John Hendrie

Any talk about Phil Parkinson’s contract should be forgotten until later in the season.

There is too much going on for City right now to allow anything to distract them.

Give players an inch and they’ll take a mile. Don’t give them any excuses for not performing.

These next few weeks are vital – and that’s before Wembley. Promotion is still the prize.

Phil’s quite right to push everything else to one side and tell the team just to focus on the games ahead.

I’ve been in the same situation at Bradford with Stuart McCall when our contracts were up.

We said at the time that we’d discuss things come the end of the season. You don’t want anything hanging over.

This is no different. Just put it to one side for now. The last thing Phil will want to do at this precise moment is talk about contracts. He’s doing a good job and just wants to focus day by day, match to match.

Contract talks can wait – the less distractions the better. If you let these things take over, then matches become secondary and results will suffer.

Even with Wembley fast approaching, you have to think one game at a time. Take your eye off the promotion prize now because of thinking about the cup final or the manager’s contract and that will come back to bite you on the backside.

Whatever the result against Swansea, you’ve got to pick things up again afterwards. Once the 24th has passed, they have to give the league a right go.

They don’t want to be in a position where they’ve given themselves too much to do. That’s the danger between now and then.

Without putting pressure on anyone at the club, I’m not looking simply for the play-offs. I still think third spot is up for grabs.

Port Vale and Gillingham have probably got away but if you can get a head of steam going, there’s no reason why the other automatic place should be out of reach. They’ve certainly got the right squad.

Between now and Wembley, City play Gillingham, Wycombe and Wimbledon and they’ve got to be looking to pick up a fair ratio of points. Anything else is secondary to that.

The biggest priority is Saturday’s home game against Gillingham. Then it’s Wycombe away and then the trip to Wimbledon. Wembley is fourth on that list and Parky’s contract fifth. Concentrate on the other matters first.

And obviously the manager will be dangling the final as a carrot in the games to come. If players take their foot off the pedal in any way, they’re in danger of missing a Wembley spot.

That’s a powerful team talk, especially with the size of the squad at Valley Parade.

I know they were a wee bit unfortunate on Saturday with the James Hanson handball. But that’s the thin dividing line between success and failure.

One decision was the difference. If they’d got those extra two points from Fleetwood, City would be sat in a more comfortable position this morning. There is no margin for error if they want to get out of this league.

Even with the cup final, Parky and his coaching staff will be disappointed if they get to the end of the season still in the same division.

In football, it’s not what you’ve achieved but what you want to do next. They’ve got a Wembley spot, which is unbelievable, but what happens now?

That’s not being disrespectful. But just look at Man United and Fergie – as soon as they win the league, they look to the next one.

Phil is just as ambitious and will be thinking the same. Stuff the contract, that’s secondary, he wants that promotion on his CV and that’s more achievable with as few distractions as possible.

John Hendrie, who is a consultant for LawBlacks.com, was talking to Simon Parker